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was drafted in the third round of the 2009 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals out of the University of California at Riverside. In 2011, while still at High A Palm Beach, Kelly posted a 2.60 ERA earning him a promotion to AA where he posted just a 5.01 ERA in 11 starts. The team must have seen something good in him, because Kelly started 2012 at AAA Memphis where he thrived, posting a 2.86 ERA in 12 starts. In June 2012, Kelly made the majors, posting a 3.53 ERA in 24 games (16 starts) for the Cardinals. The team thought enough of him to include him on the postseason roster for each of the first two rounds of the playoffs as they were eliminated in the NLCS by the San Francisco Giants. In 7.2 innings of relief, he posted a 2.35 ERA.
After an outstanding 2013 in the majors, in which Kelly posted a 2.69 ERA over 15 starts (37 games), Kelly was in the rotation throughout the playoffs posting an 0-1 record and 4.15 ERA in 21.2 innings in which he struck out 19 batters. He started Game 3 of the World Series which Red Sox fans might remember as the Obstruction Game in which the Red Sox lost on a controversial call at third base which let the winning run score in the bottom of the 9th. He pitched 5.1 innings in that game, allowing two runs and left with the lead.
2014 started off well for Kelly, allowing just one earned run in 11.1 innings over his first two starts. In his third start on April 16, after four innings without allowing an earned run, Kelly hurt his left hamstring, bunting for a base hit. He did not start another game in the majors until July 11. Kelly did not fare well upon his return, posting a 7.45 ERA over four starts. On July 31, Kelly was traded to Boston, along with Allen Craig (who has also struggled with injury of late) for Red Sox righthander John Lackey and a minor leaguer. Ostensibly replacing Lackey in the Red Sox rotation, Kelly was surprised (or stunned if you go by the interview in that link) when finding out via Twitter, before his agent or the Cardinals had notified him, that he was leaving the only organization he had ever known.
Kelly managed to control his emotions during his first Red Sox start which, ironically, came against his old team the Cardinals on August 6. He walked four in seven innings, but allowed only three hits and one earned run. Though he came away with a no-decision, the Red Sox won, 2-1. Though he posted only a 4.32 ERA in September, he managed to win four of five decisions to end the season on a positive note.
All of Kelly’s scouting report mention his athleticism, as evidenced by that injury-causing bunt attempt. His repertoire features a power sinker (occasionally hitting 98 on some radar guns last season), curveball, slider and changeup. According to Kelly himself he likes to “get quick outs and put guys away with some offspeed pitches”
It might be a stretch to expect Kelly to log a full 200 innings in 2015. After last year’s injury, which kept him sidelined for two months, he only twirled 106.2 innings between majors and his minor league rehab. In 2013 he logged 124 innings. In 2012, Kelly had his most innings as a professional, 186.2, between minors, majors and the postseason. The Red Sox might look to give Kelly an extra day off here and there to try and get an injury-free season as a starter under his belt before expecting more than 180 innings or so out of him.
The best part of Kelly is his salary. He falls short of “Super 2” arbitration (awarding an extra year of arbitration to those players close to three years service time) by about ten days of service time, so he will make around $550 thousand for this season. Considering he will be eligible for arbitration for the first time next season, Kelly will have added motivation to put up his best stats to drastically increase his salary for 2016.
Stay tuned to BoSoxInjection for tomorrow’s installment of the 25 in 25 series: Tommy Layne[/related-category category="25 in 25"]